At the Alternative Candidates debate Wednesday, three of four federal candidates responded to questions on treaty rights, indigenous affairs, environment, job creation, and housing.
In absence of the federal conservative candidate, Floyd Roland, the debate consisted of similar policy platforms.
As people came forward to ask their questions, a couple mentioned their disappointment that Floyd Roland, the Conservative candidate for the NWT declined to attend.
However, the debate was made up of environmental, labour, indigenous and social justice organizations.
Many questions were prefaced with vilifications of the Harper government’s record, creating a potentially hostile environment for conservatism.
A representative from the Dene Nation, asked what the candidates thought about entrenching treaty rights.
NDP candidate Dennis Bevington said that all Canadians are “treaty people” and that they have an obligation to honour treaties the same way Canada does with its foreign treaties.
Bevington criticized Harper for fighting against indigenous rights.
That sentiment was echoed by Liberal candidate Michael McLeod, who pointed to the “damaged relationship” between Canada and First Nations.
All parties seemed to support a new nation-to-nation dialogue. Green Party Candidate, John Moore, said he would introduce the Kelowna Accord on his “first day in office.”
The Kelowna Accord, formed as a result of an 18-month consultation with First Nations, provincial, federal and territorial governments, to reverse social inequalities.
Those funding targets — $5-billion over five years — were largely disregarded by the Conservative government, which undercut those commitments to education, health, housing and infrastructure.
Closing the gap for women
From the Status of Women Council NWT, a question came, asking what the candidates would do to address the 20 per cent wage gap between women and their male counterparts.
The NDP would implement a universal child care program at $15 per day to give women a “level playing field,” Bevington said.
The Liberals promised a national action plan on family violence, and addressing inequality of hiring practices and wage gaps.
The Greens would reconcile the “massive dearth” between female university graduates and number of women employed from that demographic, Moore said. He added that the Greens would implement all 94 TRC recommendations, and address the MMIW crisis.
Gerry Sharp, keeper of the sacred bundle for missing and murdered indigenous women, “let the record speak” for the conservative government.
Sharp took the mic, playing a clip from the CBC interview in which Harper said an inquiry wasn’t “really high on our radar, to be honest.”
All three candidates suggested they would launch an inquiry and attempt to repair the relationships between indigenous people and Canada.
They were also asked what they would do about the long-gun registry, but no candidates directly answered that question. Instead, they suggested they would embrace policies on violence against women, and fund shelters and services.
Economic visions for the territory
McLeod said Liberals would invest in infrastructure and training opportunities, lower taxes for the middle class and develop the biomass industry to lower energy costs.
Moore echoed that sentiment, saying that Greens would invest in green jobs a two cent per kilowatt hour subsidy for renewables.
Bevington remarked that there has been a boom in mining, but a decline in economic prosperity. The territory imports half a billion dollars’ worth of imported energy.
Instead, the NDP would invest more than $100-million in renewable energy projects, retrofit old homes, and promote sustainable rural economies, Bevington said.
Addressing the northern housing crisis
Over the next 20 years, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation will phase out funding for social housing.
All three party candidates pledged to improve housing in one form or another, with the NDP promising to invest $2.7-billion over four years for long term housing. McLeod said Liberals would reinstate the CMHC housing and Moore promised the Greens would build 20,000 units yearly.
In the closing remarks, Green Party candidate, John Moore, made note of why the NDP and Liberals have been unable to make much progress in parliament.
They didn’t hold a majority, a position the Green Party understands.
At the closure of the debate, Moore said he was there to voice concerns he felt many parties did not touch on, even if he wasn’t going to be elected.